Fans out in force for Lance
Austin - Die-hard Lance Armstrong supporters turned out Friday in force and in all their finery, undeterred by claims his epic cyling career was fueled by doping.
"You have to separate Lance the athlete and Lance the humanitarian," said Kurt Cannon, 40, an executive with Fuji Film who flew in from Philadelphia for a gala fund-raiser celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Livestrong cancer charity Armstrong founded.
Cannon, whose sister has leukemia, said for the second year in a row he was invited to the gala after raising more than $20 000 for the charity.
"Everybody realises that everyone is going to be troubled by cancer at some point," he said.
Many of the attendees sounded like they were speaking from the same script.
Despite a blistering report by the US Anti-Doping Agency, stuffed with witness testimony to support USADA's lifetime ban of the seven-time Tour de France champion, they support Livestrong because of the work it does on behalf of millions of people suffering from cancer.
Star power was provided by actors such as Sean Penn, Ben Stiller and Robin Williams as well as musicians Norah Jones and Stephen Marley.
Others in attendance were cancer survivors or were battling cancer.
Livestrong announced that the gala raised $2.5m to support services for people affected by cancer.
"I'm so humbled by the outpouring of support tonight and throughout the 15 year history of Livestrong," said Armstrong.
"During the last few days a lot of people have asked me how I am doing. And I'll tell you, I've been better, but I've been worse."
He added that the Livestrong movement "has always been bigger than any one individual. It's about the 28 million people around the world living with cancer today."
Keri Kehr, a 43-year-old from Minneapolis, said Armstrong's doping downfall could prompt people to reconsider giving to Livestrong, but she thought in the long run the foundation would continue to garner support.
"I think if he did do it (cheat), what he's done for cancer is more important. It's priceless," said Kerr, who has raised tens of thousands of dollars for Livestrong through pledge donations for her riding in Livestrong-sponsored bike races.